Kinetochores are large protein assemblies that connect chromosomes to microtubules of the mitotic and meiotic spindles in order to distribute the replicated genome from a mother cell to its daughters. Kinetochores also control feedback mechanisms responsible for the correction of incorrect microtubule attachments, and for the coordination of chromosome attachment with cell cycle progression. Finally, kinetochores contribute to their own preservation, across generations, at the specific chromosomal loci devoted to host them, the centromeres. They achieve this in most species by exploiting an epigenetic, DNA-sequence-independent mechanism; notable exceptions are budding yeasts where a specific sequence is associated with centromere function. In the last 15 years, extensive progress in the elucidation of the composition of the kinetochore and the identification of various physical and functional modules within its substructure has led to a much deeper molecular understanding of kinetochore organization and the origins of its functional output. Here, we provide a broad summary of this progress, focusing primarily on kinetochores of humans and budding yeast, while highlighting work from other models, and present important unresolved questions for future studies.
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